Shopkeeping passion is in the blood

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014
Timaru New World owner-operator Howard Smith is preparing to hand over the business to his daughter Caroline Hall.
Fairfax NZ
PASS IT ON: Timaru New World owner-operator Howard Smith is preparing to hand over the business to his daughter Caroline Hall.

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Supermarkets are big business and in the giant Foodstuff co-operative group they are family firms, being handed down the generations.

Foodstuffs operates the New World and Foodstuffs supermarket brands as well as the Four Square chain.

To earn the right to the lucrative position at the head of a New World supermarket, aspiring owner-operators have to complete Foodstuff's management programme to become an approved operator.

The operator then has to run the store for two years before gaining the keys to the store as owners and full control.

Three supermarket owners are preparing to hand their businesses over to the next generation.

Howard Smith started working at his mother's Timaru grocery store 49 years ago.

He bought his first store at the age of 21, his first supermarket at 30 and joined the New World group in 1994. Now 65, he bought the Timaru New World in 2009.

Next month he will hand it over to daughter Caroline Hall and son-in-law Jason Hall. His son, Justin Smith, owns Oamaru New World.

"Once I got into it I really enjoyed it and then carried on," Smith said.

His daughter's takeover was not always planned.

"She told me she wanted to come and buy me out. It was her idea, not mine."

After the handover, Smith said, he would still do his shopping at the store but he did not want to be the "interfering old father".

"I've lived it and I still enjoy it. As I say, get out while you're on top."

Caroline Hall said it had been easy working with her father.

"It's been really great learning from his strengths."

Wellington's Thorndon New World owner Brian Drake entered the supermarket business in 1981 after a career in insurance.

He owned the Kelburn Four Square, then New World Paremata and in 1998 opened the distinctive Thorndon supermarket which incorporates the historic brick Thorndon Brewery tower.

Drake's sons Ashley and Reese were involved in the stores from an early age and would start the two-year probationary period in April 2016.

Ashley Drake said he remembered spending a "heck of a lot" of time at his dad's store as a child and knew in the back of his mind he always wanted to make a career out of it.

Foodstuffs managing director Steve Anderson said the co-operative had a history of supporting family members' progress through store ranks to ownership with some stores run by third-generation grocers.

In Levin, New World owner-operator Barry Rollinson will this year hand over his supermarket into the care of his children, bringing the curtain down on 45 years in the business.

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Rollinson moved to New Zealand from Britain in 1965 and worked at the Wellington Savings Bank before leaving to join the supermarket trade.

In 1991 he took over the Havelock North New World and in 2006 bought Levin New World. Rollinson's son Matt Rollinson left his job and daughter Gwen Bailey returned from Britain to work at the New World with the view to eventually taking over.

But things happened faster than expected when Rollinson was diagnosed with cancer in 2007.

"They had a bit of a baptism of fire," he said.

He has since recovered but has stepped back from the business while Bailey and Matt Rollinson underwent the two-year probationary period to become approved owner-operators of the store.

The siblings will officially take control in November despite essentially running the store since 2008.

Rollinson said he missed the supermarket "most tremendously" but it was time for him to "bow out".

Bailey's husband Stuart Bailey also works in the store as operations manager and Matt Rollinson's wife Sally works in the florist part-time.

Bailey said she and her brother agreed 99.9 per cent of the time.

"I share an office with my brother and people can't get over the fact that we get on."

Foodstuffs North Island managing director Murray Jordan said family values were held in high regard but when it came to selecting new owners it was done on merit.

- Fairfax Media

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